'Lizzie' Is A Drag At Wig Fest
by Dan Kadison
The final Wigstock bash went out with a bang yesterday – featuring a performance by a “run-down” Lizzie Grubman impersonator.
“It’s a smashing tribute to Lizzie Grubman because she’s a cultural icon,” aid one of the event’s gender bending founders, Lady Bunny, playfully noting that the performer that played the p.r. princess had a “run-down feeling.”
She was referring to Grubman’s now –infamous incident in which she backed her Mercedes-Benz SUV into a crowd of people outside a Southampton nightclub July 7.
Daniel Alita, who uses the stage name “Gusty Winds,” conjured up a vision of Lizzie by donning a blonde wig, a black dress with transparent shrug, strappy black shoes, a faux diamond bracelet and oversized zebra-striped sunglasses. “I’m a 250-pound man in a wig. If I can take a joke, she can,” said Alita, a hotel manager originally from Suffolk County. “Do you really think I want to walk around with my roots showing?”
Wigstock performers treated the crowd to Lizzie jokes before Alita bounded onstage.
“It’s been so tragic, I gained 10 pounds,” he said before an SUV replica knocked him down. When Lady Bunny tried to help “Lizzie” up, out came a bloody prosthetic arm.
The lighthearted poke on Pier 54 was one of dozens of sights at Wigstock – which is closing down because it’s become too expensive.
“It’s much too fun,” said 42-year old “Amanda Deere,” a Bergen County man wearing a custom made, flame colored wig that matched his thigh high, 6-inch heeled boots. “It’s like Mardi Gras in New York.”
WIGSTOCK CURLS UP AND DYES
A look back at the cultural impact of the popular annual drag festival as its demise in New York nears.
by Lawrence Ferber
Dingdong the wig is dead? It’s a sorrowful refrain, especially in light of Mayor Giuliani’s successful vendetta to annihilate anything fun in Manhattan, but Wigstock – the city’s internationally recognized, Woodstock-inspired annual celebration of drag, dance music and queer entertainment – is indeed coming to an end after 17 years.
“It’s just like losing your best friend – that you haven’t seen in a while,” laments Lady Kier, who performed at several Wigstocks while with Deee-Lite and who currently resides in London. “I’m really sad – it’s what we’ve all come to accept in New York. One lightning bolt can do a lot of damage, and Giuliani’s done it. But I’m really anticipating moving back to New York next year when he’s out, because you can’t keep [us] down for that long.”
Actually, Lady Bunny, who co founded Wigstock and co-organized it with painter Scott Lifshutz, admits a more substantial force is culpable for Wigstock’s demise: Mother Nature. Two years in a row of torrential rains – “turning it into Wetstock, featuring Lady Runny” – and the resulting loss of attendance helped to amass a $25,000.00 debt. “It’s depressing! Someone does a fantastic number, it ends, and there’s no applause because everybody’s clutching umbrellas!” bunny recalls. “In Wigstock: The Movie, I say Mother Nature must be a drag queen, because look at this beautiful weather.’ Now she must have turned into a very bitter, old, and crabby drag queen.” Bunny pauses, and adds, joshingly, “Oh wait – maybe Mother Nature is Lysinka!”
Wigstock began in 1984 as a free celebration of East Village underground queer culture, held in Thompkins Square Park. By the 90’s it became an annual pilgrimage for fun loving wig wearers the world over and moved west to pier 54, with an admission price instituted to cover rising production costs (under $1000 to mount the first Wigstock but $118,000 for the 2001 edition) Late “scene greats” like John Sex, Leigh Bowery and cofounder Ethel Eichelberger have graced Wigstock’s stages, as have today’s hippest pink friendly personalities: John Cameron Mitchell as Hedwig, Kiki and Herb, Rupaul, the B-52’s and Kristine W.
“I’m really going to miss slapping on two hours worth of make-up, a polyester wig, panty hose, girdle, bra and a costume, and then trudging out in heels in the middle of a New York summer day to perform for free,” Jackie Beat muses.
Bunny insists that Wigstock leaves behind a legacy – the festival ha already been immortalized in Barry Shils’ eponymous 1995 film and a recent CD compilation, and there are plans to release a Wigstock book and possibly another movie – this year’s event will be extensively videotaped. There will also be traveling editions of Wigstock including one in Chicago on August 31st. “I’ve always wanted to do it in Miami to coincide with the dance music conference,” Bunny adds. “But it can’t be set up so we lose money. That’s retarded.”
As for the final New York Wigstock on Sept 2? Bunny promises to “Blow it out with a bang.” Featured acts include Rufus Wainwright, Book of Love, Deborah Harry, Girlina, Flotilla Debarge, Kevin Aviance, and Obie award winning actor-singer John Kelly performing his traditional number, “Wigstock” which is lifted from Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock.”
“I may shed a tear,” Kelly admits. “but it’s hard to sing and cry at the same time.”
Homo Dish (excerpt)
None of our drag escapades could compare to the real Wigstock. And we couldn’t have asked for a more gorgeous day. The weather was perfect for drinking beer and taking in the spectacle. The pier was packed as thousands of onlookers worshiped their favorite drag performers. There was the usual mix of serious art, irreverent numbers, legitimate musical acts and crass humor, presented by performers both glamour ours and grotesque. But the thing we truly admire about Wigstock is its social conciousness. That the performers aren’t afraid to tackle the big issues with tact, intelligence and glitter. (This was best illustrated four years ago when Princess Diana died right before Wigstock and everyone dresser up like her for the festival.) This year, we couldn’t help but applaud the Lizzi Grubman look-alikes. And the jokes! What does Lizzie Grubman call her SUV? A white trash compactor. Did you hear they raised the price to get in to Conscience Point? It now costs an arm and a leg! At one point a facsimile of Lizzie herself walked onstage to address the audience, only to be run down by a cardboard cut out of the Lizziemobile. Then there was the beer guzzling, burping Mariah Scary, who screamed her way through “Emotions” before having a nervous breakdown on stage. And during the infamous Laugh-In rip-off , er homage, there was this gem of a joke: “What’s the difference between Neil Armstrong and Michael Jackson? Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon, and Michael Jackson fucks little boys up the ass!" And people brought children to the festival!
But seriously, it’s a great feeling to be part of the Wigstock experience – there’s something heartwarming about watching a 65 year old queen parade around in drag while all the cute young boys run up to her to get a photo. And of course there was some big time talent onstage too. Book Of Love pulled off a valiant set despite technical difficulties with their microphones, and before the night was thorough, Lady Bunny sang a hilarious medley of twisted pop songs, proving that she’s still got it. Of course, heaven forbid one drag queen acknowledge another’s talent. Jackie Beat, who was hosting that portion of the show, has this to say about the legendary Wigstock founder: Lady Bunny goes down faster than Aliyah’s plane!
The comment brought tears to our eyes. Wigstock – we’ll miss you!